Legendary drag racing owner/driver ‘Big Jim’ Dunn to undergo surgery for colon cancer

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ESPN drag racing analyst Mike Dunn will physically be in Denver next weekend when the NHRA kicks off its noted three-race, mid-summer “western swing,” which goes from Denver to Sonoma, Calif., and concludes in Seattle.

But a good part of Dunn’s mind and emotion will likely be back home in Southern California, focused on the progress and recovery from surgery of his father, legendary team owner and former driver “Big Jim” Dunn.

Jim Dunn, who turned 80 in March, is slated to undergo surgery for colon cancer next week, according to a news release issued Wednesday by NHRA officials.

With what the team and Dunn family patriarch will go through, the entire Jim Dunn Racing team and the Grime Boss Funny Car will miss all three races of the western swing, team officials also announced Wednesday.

Dunn’s pre-surgical prognosis is good, according to doctors, who believe the cancer has been caught in its earliest stages.

“We are grateful that this was discovered during his annual physical.” said Jon Dunn, Jim’s other son and team business manager. “Early diagnosis is crucial in his treatment and recovery. I can’t think of a single NHRA event Dad has missed, and know it won’t be long before he’s back.”

The elder Dunn has been drag racing for 64 years. He raced competitively behind the wheel from 1950 to 1990 before retiring to become a team owner and crew chief.

The team is expected to rejoin the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in time for the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota, Aug. 15-17.

Fans attending any of the three western swing races will have the opportunity to sign a large get-well card for Dunn, one of the most respected members of the drag racing community.

In addition, fans can post get-well wishes to the Grime Boss Facebook page (facebook.com/GrimeBoss).

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”